Herbal Remedies to Help Fight Colds, Coughs and Flu

February is the classic time for all those winter coughs, cold and flu symptoms to appear. We all hear that our NHS is under strain, so here are some remedies you can use to help prevent, or keep your illnesses to a minimum by building up your own immune system.As always please seek medical advice before taking any herbal remedies if you have any condition which is of concern.
There are a lot of remedies to assist the immune system to fight off cold viruses. In this article we are going to consider the following: Echinacea, Elderberry, Astragalus, Vitamin C Zinc, Plantago, and Olive leaf. They come in a variety of formats from teas to tablets, infusions to liquid forms. So there should be one ideal for you.
Echinacea (echinacea augusfi Folia, echinacea purpurea) 
Echinacea’s active compounds enhance immune function due to various mechanisms of action such as; increasing the production of white blood cells (when they are low); stimulating activation of white blood cells and boosting the production of various immune-potentiating compounds. It is considered to be the prime remedy for the immune system and this view has been supported by extensive research. Echinacea works by balancing the immune system so that it works efficiently. This means that you are less likely to catch colds etc, and may be less prone to allergies. 
It is best taken in a maintenance dose over a period of time to improve immune function. Although it appears that echinacea is most effective taken at the onset of an infection, if the herb is to be used long-term many experts suggest that a one to two week break be taken every eight weeks or so. Also those suffering from leukaemia or HIV should consult a doctor before using Echinacea. Do not take if you are taking immunosuppressant medication or if you are hypersensitive to Echinacea preparations.
Elderberry (sambucus nigra). These beautiful dark purple/black berries are well known as a delicious ingredient in drinks, providing a dense source of nutrients alongside the tart and stimulating taste.
Black elderberries contain large quantities of flavonoid glycosides and anthocyan glycosides, plus essential oils, vitamin C, B complex and minerals. It is a good source of antioxidants. There is research on its effectiveness against flu. Like Echinacea, it can stop viruses from spreading from an infected cell to other cells. It can’t stop viruses infecting cells in the first place, as Echinacea can. The two herbs can work well together.
Studies show that oral administration of elderberry extract reduces the duration of influenza symptoms from an average of six days down to 48 hours. Elderberry inhibits viral DNA replication, and thus this herb may also be useful in non-flu viruses. 
Astragalus (astragalus membranaceus)
This remedy can be used for a variety of applications including helping the immune system. Clinical studies show that  astragalus reduces the incidence and shortens the duration of the common cold. Astragalus has also been shown to increase interferon production and secretion and increase white blood cell activity. Published research found it to protect against numerous viruses. Although it is best avoided during pregnancy.
Vitamin C is often called the master immune nutrient, because of its essential role in immune function. Many studies have shown vitamin C to reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms, and some research suggests it may reduce the risk of catching a cold (although results of prevention studies have been mixed). Among other relevant effects, vitamin C increases white blood cell function, interferon production and antibody activity. Vitamin C requirements are higher during infection. 
Zinc is another important immune nutrient, along with vitamin C. The lozenge form of zinc has been shown to significantly reduce the duration and severity of common cold symptoms. When the lozenges are dissolved in the mouth, the zinc appears to possess a direct, local anti-viral activity. This benefit is in addition to the fact that zinc is a primary nutrient in immune function, particularly due to its beneficial effects on thymus gland function and white blood cell function. 
Plantago, also known as Lance Leaf Plantain, is a very common plant in Europe, growing in large quantities in dry meadows and fields, it is a member of the Plantain family, producing a rosette of slender pointed leaves and a flowering stem which arises from the centre, carrying small flowers. 
It contains mucilage, tannins and silicic acid. It is probably the mucilage which contributes most to the action of the plant. Plantago has the ability to reduce the amount of inflammation present in the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, so helping catarrh, sinusitis as well as earache, ear infections or glue ear and tinnitus.
It has been noted that plantain juice will not go mouldy during storage despite large amounts of sugar being present. This has been found to be due to the presence of naturally occurring antibiotics. This may explain its action in conditions such as middle ear infections and glue ear. If earache persists for more than five days, it is advisable to consult a Doctor. 
Olive leaf  has an active compound  oleuropein has powerful anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, the latter making it especially valuable in colds and influenza infection. Extracts of olive leaf have been shown to inhibit a variety of organisms including herpes virus, influenza A, Coxsackie, salmonella, staphylococcus, and E coli.
As well as the above remedies there a wide range of aromatherapy essential oils and Tea blends that can be used. For advice on these and any of the above remedies, call into the body store and speak with Raj who can discuss your requirements with you.